Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Treatment
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. It is caused by an imbalance of a woman’s female sex hormones, resulting in higher levels of the male hormone, androgen and irregular periods.
The ovaries may develop numerous small fluid-filled sacs and irregularly release eggs. This makes it difficult for women to get pregnant.
The presence of androgen may result in acne, male pattern baldness, and excess facial and body hair.
Due to the hormone imbalance, a woman with PCOS is more prone to developing diabetes and heart issues.
When should I see a specialist for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Treatment?
You should see a gynaecologist if you are experiencing the following:
· irregular menstrual periods
· signs of excess androgen imbalance such as acne and male-pattern baldness.
Did you know?
A study published in 2012 shows that the risk of type 2 diabetes increases dramatically in middle-aged women with PCOS and suggests that such women should be closely monitored and tested for diabetes¹.
What are the complications of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Besides infertility, complications of PCOS can include:
· type 2 diabetes or prediabetes
· increased risk of cardiovascular disease
· gestational diabetes
· pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
· miscarriage or premature birth
· sleep apnoea
· abnormal uterine bleeding
· Cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer)
PCOS is associated with obesity which can worsen complications due to the disorder.
How should I prepare for my appointment?
The gynaecologist will discuss your personal and family history with you. Your specialist is likely to ask questions regarding your symptoms, the date of last menstrual period, any recent weight gain or loss, pregnancy intent, and if there is anyone in your family with PCOS.
The following information should be prepared for the appointment:
· Your symptoms and how long you have had these symptoms
· All medication currently being consumed including dosage, vitamins, and other supplements
· You and your family’s medical history including any recent life changes or stressors
· Your menstrual cycle record
The gynaecologist will also perform a physical examination to check for excess hair growth, hormone resistance, and acne. In addition, your specialist may suggest
· A pelvic exam to check your reproductive organs for abnormalities.
· Blood tests to measure hormone levels with additional tests for glucose tolerance and fasting cholesterol and triglyceride levels due to increased risk of developing diabetes and heart problems
· An ultrasound to check the appearance of your ovaries and uterus.
What can I expect during Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Treatment?
PCOS treatment focuses on managing your individual concerns, such as infertility, excessive hair growth, acne, or obesity. Specific treatment might involve the following:
· Weight loss might improve your symptoms, help with infertility and increase the effectiveness of the medications
· Combination birth control pills that contain oestrogen and progestin decrease androgen production and regulate oestrogen. Effective hormone regulation can decrease endometrial cancer risk and reduce abnormal bleeding, curb excess hair growth and improve acne.
· Taking progestin alone can reduce endometrial cancer risk and regulate your periods. However, it cannot improve androgen levels and will not prevent pregnancy from occurring.
· To address ovulation issues, an oral anti-oestrogen medication can be taken during the early part of your menstrual cycle to stimulate the ovaries.
· To reduce excess hair growth, your specialist may prescribe birth control pills that decrease androgen production, medication to block the androgen effects on the skin (note that this can cause birth defects and is not recommended if you are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant), medication to slow facial hair growth, or recommend electrolysis to damage and destroy the hair follicles.
How do I decrease the effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?
Some lifestyle changes as described below can help decrease the effects of PCOS:
· Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce insulin and androgen levels
· Limit carbohydrates as low-fat and high-carbohydrate diets might increase insulin levels.
· Being active helps to keeps your weight under control and lowers blood sugar levels to treat or even prevent insulin resistance
1. Gambineri A, Patton L, Altieri P, et al. Polycystic ovary syndrome is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes: results from a long-term prospective study. Diabetes. 2012;61(9):2369-2374. doi:10.2337/db11-1360.